I once read somewhere that music is the language of the soul. I don't know if it's true, but ever since I was little I have been drawn to all types of music. It's not that I was a musician or anything. I played the trumpet in my middle school band, but that's about as far as my musical skills went. No, I enjoyed music more as an outsider.
I don't much enjoy big concerts or performances either. I like going to little cafes or coffeehouses and watching a person go up there on the stage and pour their heart into the music. As their fingers strum the guitar or softly wave along the flute, it's like something magical happens and I can see into their very being. This is what attracts me to music.
So it was a hot, humid night that I found myself at Sam's, a small cafe by my house. It was one of those places where the "emotionally distressed" hang out. You know the type I'm talking about. They were the ones in high school who wore all black but weren't goths. They were also the ones who could get away with hanging out by themselves without looking like a loser.
There I was, a complete misfit with my gray pull over sweatshirt and baseball hat turned backwards. I stared down at my cup of decaf coffee and waited patiently for the next performance to start. Every Wednesday night Sam's showcased a local aspiring musician. Usually it was someone from the local university. I really enjoyed watching them. It always made me smile, thinking that ten years from now they were probably going to be the first chair of some huge symphony in Europe or the lead guitarist of a huge Rock band.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed, and each table was illuminated by a small candle. A single spotlight was turned onto a piano up on the stage. A woman walked onto the stage and sat down at the piano. She raised her hands and began to play.
I gasped, put my hand on my chest, and gulped. There was no introduction, no warning. She laid her hands on the keys, and she and the piano became one. The notes she created seemed not to be of this world. I closed my eyes, and as she continued to play, I got shivers down my spine. It was almost as if she told a story, the story of her life. The story was one of sorrow and heartache. She would reach the highest note, than pound on the deepest, darkest note, which sent chills through the audience.
The piece ended too quickly. There was no finale. It just ended, as if it never was meant to end. The lights were turned back on, and the audience clapped and cheered. She got up and walked backstage. I didn't even get a chance to see what she looked like.
I sighed and went to order another cup of coffee. As I was sitting on a stool, waiting for my order, I noticed out of the corner of my eye some sit down next to me. I turned to see who it was, and there was the girl. I hadn't even seen her that well, but I knew it was her. She was exactly as her music, out of this world. She had jet black hair, which she kept in a bandana. She had olive skin and piercings all over: a stud in her nose, one in her eyebrow, one ring on her lower lip, and all over her ears. But it was none of that that made her out of this world. Her eyes, my god, her eyes! They were crystal violet, almost a shade of purple. At first I though they were contact lenses, but thet couldn't have been.
I realized I was staring when she turned and gave me a funny look. I turned around and stared down at my coffee. "Say something, damnit," I thought to myself.
"Youwereamazning," I garbled.
"Huh?" she asked.
I took a deep breath and tried again. "I meant, you were amazing."
"Oh, thank you," she replied. Even her voice was unique. It was sort of deep, but had this high pitched and scratchy tone to it. It's hard to describe.
I smiled. I wanted to say something..."What was that piece?"
"A composition I wrote," she replied.
"Are you serious? You wrote that?" I asked in awe.
"Uh, huh," she said as she tucked a piece of hair underneath her bandana.
"Well, you're like a prodigy or something because that was so awesome I can't even say," I babbled.
For the first time, she smiled. It was so nice; she smiled with her eyes. "Thank you," she said.
"I'm Aidan," I smiled as I extended my hand.
"Cortencia," she said as she extended hers. Her hand was so soft; I didn't want to let go. It felt so nice. I realized I was still holding her hand, so I let go.
"Do you go to the University?" I asked.
"Oh no," she said, "I could never afford that. I just play at places like this for money at night."
"What do you do during the day?" I asked.
"I'm a cashier," she answered rolling her eyes, "I hate it. What do you do?"
I sipped my coffee and laughed. "Nothing." She laughed. "I just graduated from high school, so I am officially doing nothing. I'll probably go to junior college in the fall, and after that, who know?"
"I think that's great," she said. "Life isn't to be planned and critiqued. Life's meant to live."
" I agree. A toast to life." I smiled as I lifted my cup. She giggled and lifted up her cup. We toasted and sipped our coffee. "So, where did you learn to play like that?"
She placed her cup down softly and looked down. Her face grew dark. My heart sank. I felt so stupid; I must have said something wrong. "I'm sorry. Did I say something wrong?"
She looked up. "No, it's not you. My father taught me to play. But I don't like to talk about it."
"Alright," I said, "than let's talk about something else." For the next hour or so we talked mostly about me. I told her everything about me. I told her about my family, high school, my soccer league, yeah, just about everything. I have a tendency to ramble (if you haven't realized by now) and people usually have no problem telling me to shut up. Cortencia just sat and listened. She seemed sincerely interested. She even laughed at all my lame stories and jokes.
"you're lucky to have a sister," she said as I was telling her about my annoying younger sister. "Siblings make such nice childhood companions."
"Yeah, I guess," I said. "Do you have any siblings?"
Everytime I asked Cortencia anything personal about her family or her past, she grew quiet and solemn. She looked down and shook her head. I decided to change the subject. "So, I know you're a classical musician, but do you like any other types of music?"
"Oh yeah," she said, "I really like Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys. They're wonderful. Whom do you like?"
"I like lots of music. I'm into mostly punk and metal rock music." I told her some of my favorite bands.
Cortencia giggle and blushed. "I'm such a loser," she laughed, "I've never heard any of them."
I laughed too. "No biggie," I said, "by the way, how old are you?"
"Eighteen," she answered.
I laughed and said, "You look young, but you seem so much older. You must have an old soul."
Cortencia sighed. "I must," she answered.
I glanced around the cafe and realized we were the only ones left. "Oh my god, everyone's gone," I commented.
Cortencia looked around. "I guess so. I better get going too. It's late."
"Well, how are you getting home?" I asked as we got up from our seats.
"The bus," she answered.
"Well, I would offer you a ride home, but I walked here," I said as I shrugged my shoulders.
Cortencia smiled. "It's all right Aiden," she said as she put on her shawl, "You've already made my night".
I blushed and looked down shyly. "Well, at least let me walk you to your bus stop,". She looked hesitant. "I insist."
"Okay," she said, "why not?"
It was pitch dark as we walked down the street. I put my hands in my pockets and began to whistle softly. It was a love song by favorite band of mine. Soon, Cortencia began to whitle along and we strolled down the street, whistling away. "I like that song," she said.
Me too," I replied. "It's one of my favorites. It's a great song to slow dance too. Do you like to dance?"
"Not really," she answered.
"I'm sure you're a great dancer," I said. "You owe me a dance sometime, okay?"
Corentica laughed softly. "All right."
It was a wonderful night, the perfect balance between warm and cool. I wanted to put my arm around Cortencia, but I didn't want to offend her. I decided to try anyways; I put my arm through hers. I looked over at her. "Is this okay?" I asked.
She pursed her lips and was quiet for a moment. "Yes," she said softly. She pulled me closer to her. We continued to walk, arm in arm. We walked up to the bus stop bench and sat down. I placed my arm tenderly on her shoulder. She inhaled sharply, but said nothing. Her shoudler felt so tense.
The street was quiet. There wasn't another soul around. It felt as if Cortencia and I were the only two people left in the world. I wanted nothing more than to pull her to me and hold her. She had pain and sorrow. It was deep in her eyes; even when she smiled.
I turned towards her. She turned towards me. We looked into each other's eyes for a while. I grab her hand and squeezed She squeezed back. I decided to risk it all. I leaned in slowly and placed my lips on hers. I wait for a response. She began to apply pressure. We kissed softly a few times, than pulled away.
"Cortencia, I'd really like to see you again," I said. She looked straight ahead. I let go of her hand. "Cortencia?"
She turned towards me. Twoi single tears, one on each cheek, were rolling down her face.
I gasped. "Why are you crying?" I asked tenderly. When she didn't answer, I asked, "Why are you crying Cortencia? Is it something you did?"
She shook her head swiftly. She wasn't whimpering or moaning, but silent tears continued to roll down her cheeks. "You know, you're the first man who's ever even showed a slight interest in me, Aidan," she whispered.
I shook my head. "That's impossible," I said, "I mean, you're beautiful. In fact, you're the most beautiful girl I've ever met."
Cortencia just kept shaking her head and wrapped her shawl tighter around her. "I'm wasting your time, Aidan. Please just leave."
I was stunned. we had been having such a great time and been connecting so much, and she was suddenly rejecting me. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. "You're not wasting my time. I've never felt so close to a girl in my entire life. But if you want me to go, than I'll leave."
I was just getting up, when I heard Cortencia say something. I turned around. "What?" I asked.
"Before you go, I want to tell you the truth," she said. "Aidan, I've felt something special with you. But you must know."
Cortencia looked down but I lifted her chin so she'd look into my eyes. "Aidan," she began, "I'm transgendered."
I didn't understand. I back away from her and thought for a second. Transgender...that was some word I'd heard before but it didn't register. "I don't understand," I said
She sighed. The tears had stopped but her voice shook as she spoke. "I was born anatomically male."
It took a few seconds for this register. "No, that's stupid...I mean," I pointed stupidly at her breasts.
She just shook her head. "When I was sixteen, I took estrogen hormones to become my right gender. But I'm still male in other places."
I never expected this. I mean, this beautiful, talented girl was a guy in "other places"...and I was atracted to her...or him? Did this make me gay? What exactly did this all mean? So many questions raced through brain at once.
Than my macho side rushed up and my first though was "Oh my god...I kissed a dude!"
Than as soon as I though that, the whole night flashed before my eyes. I remembered Cortencia playing the piano, our conversation at the coffee bar, and our stroll down the street. I remembered her laugh and smile. I also remembered the sadness deep in her eyes. I'd left her. I'd did exactly what everyone else in her life had probably done. I'd given into my phobias and pre-judgements and abandoned her.
I jumped up and ran as fast I could back to the bus stop. I turned the corner. The bus was there, and she was getting on. I ran as fast as my legs would go. Just as the bus driver was about to go, I ran up and banged on the door. The bus driver opened the door and snapped,"What the hell do you think you're doing?"
As windedas I was, I wallowed up the steps and put a crimpled dollar into the machine. I walked down the aisle and saw Cortencia in the back. She was staring at me with a mixture of confusion and anger.
"I thought you were leaving," she said.
"I was," I replied, "but than I realized...you still owe me a dance."